Skill Polarization and Inequality: Are They Real and Inevitable?

  • Luigi PaganettoEmail author
  • Pasquale Lucio Scandizzo
Conference paper


This paper examines some of the characteristics and the possible causes of job polarization, a process that has been progressing for some time, but that has only recently become the focus of a more intense attention of economists and policy makers. The paper looks at three different phenomena behind the seemingly increasing divergence between high and low skill jobs: (i) the evolution of the mode of production and the model of organization of the firm, (ii) the evolution of the value chains, that have become longer and more fragmented, more internationally spread, and increasingly dependent on logistics and information technology and, (iii) the reshuffling of professional competences and comparative advantage depending on the new technologies and especially on the so called internet revolution.


Polarization Value chains Technologies 


  1. About the working poor families project, The working poor families project,
  2. Autor, D. H. (2015). The paradox of abundance: Automation anxiety returns. In S. Rangan (Ed.), Performance and progress: Essays on capitalism, business, and society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Autor, D. H., Levy, F., & Murnane, R. (2003). The skill content of recent technological change: An empirical exploration. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(4).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Autor, D. H., Katz, L. F., & Kearney, M. S. (2006). The polarization of the US labor market. The American Economic Review, 96(2).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beveridge, S. W. (1942). Social insurance and allied services. London: HMSO.Google Scholar
  6. Bluestone, B., & Harrison, B. (1986). The great american job machine: The proliferation of low wage employment in the U.S. economy. Report to the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.Google Scholar
  7. Brynjolfsson, E., & Mcafee, A. (2014). The second machine age: Work, progress, and prosperity in a time of brilliant technologies. New York, NY: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  8. Bureau of labor statistics, United States Department of Labor,
  9. Dixit, A. K., & Pindyck, R. S. (1994). Investment under uncertainty. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Goos, M., & Manning, A. (2007). Lousy and lovely jobs: The rising polarization of work in Britain. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 89(1).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Goos, M., Manning, A., & Salomons, A. (2009). Explaining job polarization in Europe: The roles of technology, globalization and institutions. American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings, 99(2).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Graetz, G., & Michaels, G. (2017). Is Modern Technology Responsible for Jobless Recoveries? IZA Discussion Paper No. 10470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Keynes, J. M. (1935). The general theory of employment, interest, and money.Google Scholar
  14. Knight, W. (2013). Baxter: The Blue-Collar Robot. Rethink Robotics’ new creation is easy to interact with, but the innovations behind the robot show just how hard it is to get along with people. MIT Technology Review.Google Scholar
  15. Levine, E.S. (2012). Improving risk matrices: the advantages of logarithmically scaled axes. Journal of Risk Research, 15(2), 209–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Masahiko, A. (1988). Information, incentives, and bargaining in the Japanese economy. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Paganetto, L., & Scandizzo, P. L. (2010). Technology cycles and technology revolutions. In L. Paganetto (Ed.), Global crisis and long term growth: A new capitalism ahead? (pp. 157–169). Milano: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  18. Porter, M. E. (1998). Clusters and the new economics of competition. Harvard Business Review.Google Scholar
  19. Sourcing Line Computer Economic Survey. (2014),
  20. Williamson, O.E. (1981). The economics of organization: The transaction cost approach. The American Journal of Sociology, 87(3), 548–577.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.FUET—Tor Vergata Economics FoundationRomeItaly

Personalised recommendations